Gallup: Fewer Americans Covered by Employer-Based Insurance

Sophie Quinton

Fewer Americans have employer-based health insurance than ever, according to a Gallup-Healthways survey released on Friday. Only 44.5 percent of American adults received health insurance from an employer in the third quarter of 2011, the latest low point in a steady decline in employer-based coverage measured by Gallup and Healthways since 2008. 

Initially, the decline in employer-based insurance seemed linked to rising unemployment, Gallup said. "It is likely that other factors--including fewer employers offering health insurance--are also contributing to this trend," Gallup said in a statement.

The number of uninsured Americans has risen since 2008, as has the number covered by a government plan, Gallup reports. Currently, 17.3 percent of Americans are uninsured; 25.1 percent are enrolled in a government insurance plan; and 11.4 percent are enrolled in “something else.” In 2008, more than 48 percent of Americans had employer-sponsored health insurance; approximately 15 percent were uninsured; and some 23 percent were enrolled in a government plan.

It's possible that new survey methods changed the numbers. In April 2011, Gallup began surveying more people who have only cell phones, and people without land lines tend to be younger.

However, Gallup also noted that the number of uninsured 18-to-26-year-olds has declined, as a result of a provision in 2009's health care reform legislation that allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26.

“None of the other components of the health law that have already been implemented—tax credits to help small businesses provide health insurance to their employees and the establishment of a preexisting-condition insurance plan among several others—appear to be affecting coverage for older adults,” Gallup said.

Gallup pointed out that Wal-Mart Stores—the nation’s largest private employer—has reduced the health care coverage it provides for its employees, particularly those who work part time. “If Wal-Mart's decision is a precursor of how employers intend to manage their health care costs, the downward trend in employer-based health care will likely continue,” Gallup said.

The Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index conducted random telephone interviews of 90,070 adults ages 18 and over between July 1 and Sept. 30 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Participants were selected using random-digit-dial sampling.